educator, writer, speaker, devoted family man, amateur philosopher, chess enthusiast, basketball junkie, connoisseur of fine hip hop, and purveyor of wit and wisdom

The 160th Anniversary of the Immortal Game

Good morning everyone.

I am pages away from finishing my dissertation.  It’s been a long, arduous, draining process, and the most difficult part is at the end.  I suppose that’s the case with most journeys…the runner has the most pain toward the end of the race when he feels like the muscles won’t let him stand any longer.

Sometimes I wonder how much I’m truly willing to sacrifice to finish this dissertation.  Am I willing to sacrifice sleep, health, money, and much needed time with my family in order to get this done?  Sometimes I think not…other times I feel like I have no choice.

Eventually I keep pushing on, but I’m slowly running out of steam.  The past few weeks have taken a lot out of me.  Between running back and forth to the dentist (4 times in 18 days), getting little sleep, not eating right, and writing dozens and dozens of pages…the flu caught up to me last Wednesday and just wiped me out.  It’s almost out of my body, but I have this cough that refuses to disappear.  And I’ve been up since 1:30 this morning with little baby Brown who wouldn’t go back to bed until 3:00.


Today’s topic is about winning through sacrifice.  Great legacies come from great sacrifices.  But before we get into today’s topic…one more side note…

My favorite movie of all time is The Shawshank Redemption.  It stars Tim Robbins as a man named Andy Dufresne who has been charged with a double murder and is sent to Shawshank Prison for life.  The movie is an adaptation of a short story written by Stephen King.

The character’s name in the movie was not haphazard or random.  When Stephen King wrote the short story, he intentionally named the character Andy Dufresne…an homage to two legendary chess players Adolf Anderssen and Jean Dufresne.  Back in 1852, these two played one of the most famous games in history (now known as the Evergreen Game).

Why do I bring this up today?  Because the focus of today’s post is on another game played by Adolf Anderssen a year earlier…a game known as the Immortal Game that teaches us about creating an amazing legacy through amazing sacrifices.

On June 21, exactly 160 years ago in London , a chess master named Howard Staunton proposed and organized the very first international chess tournament.  Sixteen players (ten British, three German, two Hungarian, and one French player) competed in single elimination rounds.  Adolf Anderssen of Germany eventually won the tournament, but the amazing thing about this important day in history (June 21, 1851) is not the tournament itself, but something that happened during a break in the tournament.

During one of the tournament breaks, Anderssen agreed to play an informal, friendly game with Lionel Kieseritzky, the sole competitor from France.  This casual game is believed by many to be the most famous and the most beautiful chess games ever played.

The game was beautiful in the way a perfectly-executed Olympic gymnastics routine is beautiful.  There is a technical excellence in the routine, a fluid grace of movement, a courage to push on while under tremendous pressure, a consistent play built on sound principles, attention to detail, and planful forethought.

The life lesson here is that winning does not mean having the most stuff in the end.

What makes The Immortal Game so achingly beautiful is that Anderssen (playing the white pieces) won the game by SACRIFICING BOTH ROOKS,  A BISHOP, AND HIS QUEEN, while Kierseritzky gave up only three pawns total.

(For those of you who are chess players, click HERE to view the moves and some notes about the game.  It is truly beautiful.)

The fact that Anderssen sacrificed so much valuable material reminds me that the purpose of chess is not to have the most “stuff” at the end of the game…the purpose is to checkmate the opponent.

Winning means

  1. setting a specific goal
  2. making a well-laid plan
  3. following the plan and adjusting when necessary
  4. tenaciously pursuing the goal until the end

Y’all pray for me as I continue toward the finish line.


One comment on “The 160th Anniversary of the Immortal Game

  1. Darlene
    June 21, 2011

    Wow! Interesting background into Shawshank Redemption. (Also, one of my favorites). Also, interesting history about chess. Just interesting all the way around! Good luck in getting more sleep. Hope you’re feeling better soon. Will say a prayer that you persevere to the finish line!

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This entry was posted on June 21, 2011 by in Chess, Musings.

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